Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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DEC may ban hog hunting in wild

Albany — Gov. Cuomo’s signature on legislation that will ban the import of Eurasian boar and will prohibit the hunting of them in fenced preserves paves the way for regulations that will also ban hunting of feral swine in the wild.

It’s a move sure to draw reaction from hunters in some areas of the state who regularly encounter the wild hogs, which typically are escapees from nearby shooting preserves.

It also is a departure from DEC’s current policy of “shoot, but don’t hunt” the hogs.

The bill signed into law by Cuomo – after being passed by lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session – prohibits the import, sale and transfer of Eurasian boars effective Sept. 1, 2015.

Essentially, that means they can no longer be hunted or even possessed by shooting preserves who have long offered captive hunts for the animals. “They will need to be gone by Sept. 1, 2015,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said.

The law is designed to rid the New York landscape of feral swine, which are actually classified as an invasive species and cause thousands of dollars in crop damage annually. The hogs compete with wildlife species, including deer and turkeys, for mast crops such as acorns and beech nuts and their foraging destroys crops and damages wetlands. They also carry diseases that can be transferred to livestock.

Several are shot by hunters each year, but DEC is now planning to develop regulations that will prohibit hunting feral swine. The legislation signed into law by Cuomo gives the DEC the authority to develop regulations governing feral hogs.

And the plan is to ban hunting of them in the wild, primarily out of concern that intense hunting pressure on the swine will scatter them and expand their range and numbers.

Stang said it’s unlikely those regulations will be in place during the current hunting season, unless the department chooses to adopt emergency regulations that would take effect immediately.

He admitted DEC is “walking a fine line” in banning hunting of feral swine in the wild.

“We want the Eurasian boar dead, but don’t want them actively pursued as it tends to bust them up and hampers DEC’s and USDA’s efforts to capture and exterminate them,” he said.

DEC’s existing policy isn’t a regulation but a recommendation to avoid actively hunting the hogs to avoid scattering them into new areas. Hunters are encouraged, however, to shoot any hogs they may encounter while pursuing other species, and several are killed each year, primarily during the deer season.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture study last year said breeding populations of feral pigs in the wild were “thought to be the result of escaped swine” from shooting preserves where they’re hunted by paying customers. Hot spots where breeding colonies of the pigs have been established in the wild support that theory; most are located not far from the fenced preserves.

Areas of Cortland, Onondaga, Sullivan, Clinton, Tioga and Delaware counties have been identified as areas with established feral pig populations. The swine are prolific breeders, capable of having several litters each year.

That same USDA study called for legislation targeting the source of the feral hogs – the captive preserves where they often escape.

“With proper legislation, elimination (of the feral swine) is a feasible goal for New York state,” the study read.

Neighboring Pennsylvania is also grappling with the spread of Eurasian boar in the wild but has stopped short of placing similar restrictions on captive facilities in that state.

Feral hogs are common in some southern states such as Texas, where hunts are offered and hunters pour into the state to pay to hunt the hogs. But wildlife officials there say the state is simply making the best of a bad situation since their numbers are so high they could never be eradicated from the landscape.

Texas has up to 2 million hogs, about half the nation’s feral hog population, and state officials say they cause about $400 million in damage each year. Other states with large populations include California, Florida and Hawaii.

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